13 August 2009

Melbourne to Adelaide (with pictures)

At last this blog gets really on the road. I have had the first lot of photos transferred to a DVD from where it is simple to upload them to this blog.

This, of course, assumes that I can remember how to manage the blog posting software.

29 July was D(eparture)-Day and it required a horribly early start to check in at Nelson Airport by 6am. However, we managed it, and boarded the flight to Wellington at the scheduled time in misty conditions. We were all smiles as the 'plane taxied toward the runway. We were off.

Only we weren't. The mist thickened to fog and the captain announced that visibility was too poor to take off. We would have to wait here "for 10 minutes". Promptly, 40 minutes later, we were off to Wellington and the danger of missing our connection was averted.

The flight to Melbourne was pleasantly uneventful, as was possession of the rental car. The car was a Hyundai Getz, with an alleged 1500cc motor, painted a cheerful yellow. The boot would only hold our luggage at the cost of risking terrible mutilation to my faithful backpack and the driver's seat went back *just* far enough for me to drive without crushing my knees.

To avoid the complexities of Melbourne's toll roads we took the scenic route towards the City Centre. In a suburb bursting with lunching places we brilliantly found a park right outside a cafe and had our first meal on Australian soil, followed by some retail therapy in the equivalent of a $2 shop.

The first 2 hostels we tried had no suitable rooms, but one of the YHA hostels came to the rescue and even had a free car park. The local bottle shop had wine specials at $7 so we began our exploration of Aussie plonk by taking a bottle back to the YHA to accompany the very reasonable curry that was dish-of-the-week. I don't remember YHA hostels providing meals in my youth.

The pre-dawn start, the time difference and the wine made for a very sound night's sleep.

Our aim is to see the wildlife and the great outdoors, so Melbourne CBD got two laps in the yellow sardine can and then it was ho for the Geelong freeway. The first stop was unplanned - trying to find the source of a rattle in an almost brand-new car. We eventually attributed it to the rear number plate, which was only attached by two screws.

Lunch was in Torquay, where we also found some cheap reading material in a Salvation Army shop.

The Getz in Torquay, before we got it dirty.

From here on we meandered to Lorne, where there is a fabulous tea room, and the birding got seriously under way. Flocks of sulphur-crested cockatoos and galahs were feeding on the grass by the beach. As far as I could tell they were eating the grass itself, roots and all. This was a splendid opportunity to try out my new camera. For bird photography it has surpassed all my expectations:

Sulphur-crested cockatoo

A galah with a mouthful of food - the only way to shut them up!

The day ended at another YHA hostel. This one, in Apollo Bay, does not serve meals and we arrived at the supermarket right on closing time. We grabbed some fruit and had an unexpected luxury dinner at a local restaurant.

Before we left Apollo Bay we puffed our way up to a lookout, where heavy showers spoiled the view, and then descended to admire the beach. "Have you seen the whales?" asked a passer-by. They were at extreme binocular range, but we did see mother right whale and her calf.

From Apollo Bay we got into the really scenic part of the journey along the Great Ocean Road. We saw our first wallaby/kangaroo and, between showers followed a short bush walk.

The reason this looks like NZ is that Australia was part of Gondwanaland, too. Eucalypts have replaced the beech trees and tree ferns in most places, but not everywhere.

The showers highlighted the worst feature of our rental car. For some reason it would not wipe the windscreen properly, and we got quite a smeary view of the world.

Beyond Cape Otway the coast becomes wild and inhospitable. It has been the death of many ships. However, from the safety of the shore it is rather grand. The sea is grinding the cliffs away at 2cm per year and my thought from the safety of the lookouts was, "Why not even faster?".

The most famous stretch of this coast is the Twelve Apostles, where slightly harder columns of rock have been separated from the mainland. Here are two of them.

Another wave crashes along the sandstone cliff face. Swimming is definitely not recommended!

You can see why the captain of the Loch Ard didn't mean to fetch up here.

We had to drag ourselves away from the 12 Apostles and from the even more extensive paths around the place where the Loch Ard was wrecked in the 19th Century.

Despite the inviting signs pointing to more places of interest, we pressed on. Mostly. OK, I stopped at quite a few of the lookouts to admire the sights and to scan the scrub for birds. And thus we arrived in picturesque Port Fairy after dark. A drive round town in the gloom gave a hint of its charm, and a local pizza parlour gave us nourishment.

We pressed on towards Portland and miraculously found a campground recommended by Lonely Planet in the dark. Even more astonishing, it had ensuite cabins. Luxury indeed.

Eve outside the cabin with a loo.

1st August and we had to make it to Adelaide. The road was mainly away from the coast and, since it was not a major highway, free of trucks. We had to stop at a village called Nelson and tried to take a picture of ourselves by the signpost. It was a rotten picture, but while messing around by the signs we found an expensive-looking cellphone in the grass.

This was a good excuse to go into Nelson and look for a police station. It's far too small for that, but the pub supplied good coffee and promised to hand the phone over to the constable next time he was passing.

Nelson is on the Glenelg River not far from the sea. Someone there owns this funny little boat.

And after that it was mainly drive, drive into South Australia, past Mt Gambier and on to Adelaide. The airport is conveniently close to the sea, and another camp cabin was selected for the night. This one was dearer and required a midnight trek to the ablution block, but it was pleasant and the local wine shop offered a pleasant bottle for only $6.50 to accompany our hamburgers.

The interest in the airport was because we were booked to fly to Darwin the next morning for the tropical leg of our journey.

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